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Al Qaida Terror Attempt Another Sign That War On Terrorism Has Failed

Chris Ford
Chris Ford

On Christmas Day, the world was stunned to learn of the latest attempt to blow up a jet airliner over the US. The attempt by Nigerian national Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to detonate a liquid explosive on Northwestern Airlines flight 253 to Detroit shows that the war on terrorism is failing. It also shows that America is determined in the name of neo-imperialism to continue to wage war on the Muslim peoples of the Middle East and South Asia.

As little as a month ago, the Obama Administration and its intelligence agencies were boasting that Al Qaida was on the run. The hype was that it was becoming more fragmented and poorly resourced. While not ruling out the possibility of future attacks, Washington was beginning to believe its own propaganda that the terrorist network, headed by Osama bin Laden, was no longer a significant threat to the US and its allies.

Well, what a difference a month makes. One very determined Al Qaida operative later and all bets are off. Osama's boys are back in town. This is no surprise given that the terrorist network is now shifting the focus of its operations to Yemen. This country is where the US (alongside its Arab allies) have been engaged in covert military and intelligence counter-operations for about the past three months in an attempt to destroy its presence there. But, as has been the case in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, innocent civilians have ended up as the main targets of US military drone attacks only further perpetuating anti-American sentiment in the region. That's why the counter-terrorism methods employed by the US (if they can be called that) have been an abject failure.

This is the case as whether it's killing a wedding party in Afghanistan or taking out civilan homes in Pakistan, the US have been very adept at sowing chaos. For one thing, their so-called collateral actions (or in other words, oops, sorry, we've killed another few civilians who were merely in the way!) have only served to increase the number of future potential terrorists. Therefore, for every US airstrike or ground operation undertaken in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen or Iraq, there are many innocent civilians killed. For every innocent civilian killed, there are many injured and un-injured eyewitnesses left behind. And amongst these groups will probably emerge five or ten people who will be susceptible to recruitment by Al Qaida or its affiliates.

There are also other groups who are inflamed by every American action in the so-called war on terror. These include people such as Abdulmutallab who hailing from bourgeois backgrounds will be well educated enough to understand the negative impact that US policy has had on both Arab and Muslim peoples. While not being directly impacted by American policy themselves due to their wealth (as was Bin Laden), this group of bourgeois jihadists have been inspired to fight by the scenes of bloodshed they see  portrayed in the media. These bourgeois jihadists understand only too well the real role that the US is playing in the so-called Middle East peace process, that of being Israel's handmaiden rather than an impartial interloctour.

Besides, the use of torture against suspected jihadists has only strengthened opposition to the US in the Middle East.  It must also be remembered as well that the Obama Administration continues with other Bush era anti-terrorism policies. These include the use of extraordinary renditions where terrorist suspects are kidnapped to order by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives on foreign soil and then taken to other countries for interrogation. Hence (and this is an important point), it is true that the Obama Administration has completely banned the use of torture by US Government officials full stop (and this includes the military). However, this will most likely still not prevent US officials from making use of information extracted through torture undertaken in countries to which extraordinary abductees are taken to.

Therefore, what the Obama Administration must remember is this? Did the use of torture by the US or its allies prevent the attacks on Bali, London and Madrid in the mid-2000s? No, they did not. Moreover, torture is a painful, degrading and dehumanising form of punishment and is illegal under international law. And all the prevarication now arising over the closure of Guantanamo (which will not be completed by the January 1st, 2010 deadline) will only serve to raise the hackles of ordinary people throughout the Middle East.

But what can be done to stop future terrorist actions against the US and its allies? It's all simple really - the US should stop acting as an omnipotent imperialist power. Instead it should stand back and reappraise its role in the wider world. What is needed is a renewed emphasis on the United Nations and its potential to act as a collective peacemaking and security organisation. A genuine Middle East peace process where Israel is pressured into ending its occupation of Palestinian territories would not go amiss too. To this end, Israel should be pressed into implementing UN Resolution 242 which calls for it to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders. This is what the Palestinian and Arab peoples are demanding. The US should also stop supporting reactionary regimes in the Arab world which include those in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, North Africa and the Gulf States. In general, these regimes are based upon the repression of human and civil rights and the fostering of social inequalities. A neo-Keynesian Marshall-type Plan based around the need for genuine economic and social development should be instituted within the region as well. For example, the existence of a high number of Madrassas (Islamic religious schools where many jihadists have been indoctrinated) in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been due to the unavailability of free primary and secondary education in those countries. If money were poured into providing free education and job opportunities in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the return in terms of enhanced peace and security would be high.

Instead of this type of visionary, progressive thinking, we have only the same old policy options to fall back on. More (and stifling) security checks at airports. Onerous safety precautions on aircraft. A Middle East peace process that is not really a peace process. Innocent men and women being abducted and some tortured to extract what could be meaningless information. Growing anti-Muslim sentiment across the globe.

In my view, it's time to change the tune and stop waging war on terrorism. Instead, let us tackle the root causes of terrorism and conflict - inequality and injustice.